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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 140 Part I, 23 July 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 140  Part I, 23 July 1998

A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern
Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by
the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central,
Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is distributed
simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL
Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's
Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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Headlines, Part I

* NEMTSOV SAYS OIL COMPANIES MUST WAIT FOR HELP

* CHECHEN PRESIDENT ESCAPES ASSASSINATION

* RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS INJURED ON EVE OF ABKHAZ TALKS

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RUSSIA

NEMTSOV SAYS OIL COMPANIES MUST WAIT FOR HELP. Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov on 22 July announced that the
government plans to help Russian oil companies, but only
after the parliament has approved a package of measures to
boost budget revenues and cut spending, Russian news agencies
reported. He was responding to an appeal signed by several
oil companies warning that government policies could lead to
economic disaster and social unrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
22 July 1998). The statement was issued a few days after
President Boris Yeltsin vetoed a law that would have cut
excise duties on oil from 55 rubles ($8.8) per ton to 25
rubles per ton. ITAR-TASS quoted an unidentified high-ranking
government official as saying the excise rate may be reduced
to 40 rubles, but not lower, given Russia's current budgetary
constraints. Oil companies say they need help to compensate
for slumping oil prices on world markets. LB

SEVERAL COMPANIES DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM STATEMENT. Within
hours after the release of the statement, purportedly signed
by Gazprom and several oil companies, the Gazprom press
service blasted the "unauthorized use" of the company's name.
A spokesman for Sidanko told ITAR-TASS that that company's
head also did not sign the appeal. (Oneksimbank, which
generally supports the government, owns a controlling stake
in Sidanko.) Semen Kukes, president of the Tyumen Oil
Company, told Russian news agencies his company and others
including Gazprom signed a different version of the appeal to
Yeltsin and the government. He said that version did not
include "accusations against international financial
organizations or Russian government agencies." Kukes also
said the Tyumen Oil Company does not believe that pressure
from abroad forced the president to veto the law on excise
duties for oil. LB

WHO SIGNED WHICH VERSION? "Vremya-MN" on 23 July published
side by side the oil companies' statement and an alleged
early draft of the document. The first draft asks Yeltsin to
withdraw his veto of the law reducing excise duties for oil
and warns that government policies will increase the tax
burden, but it does not blame international financial
organizations. Of the companies associated with the
statement, only LUKoil and Yukos confirmed on 22 July that
they signed the version released to the press, "Vremya-MN"
reported. But "Kommersant-Daily" said Yukos, along with
Sibneft, refused to confirm that they support the publicized
version of the appeal. That newspaper claimed LUKoil released
the statement too early, before confirming that other
companies were ready for a "confrontation." An official from
an unidentified oil company told "Kommersant-Daily" that the
appeal was conceived as a "serious lobbying action" but
turned out to be a "farce." LB

SYSUEV SAYS PENSION POLICY CHANGES NOT IMPOSED BY IMF. Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev told journalists on 22 July that
the IMF did not demand that Russia triple Pension Fund
contributions by individuals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July
1998). He said that a memorandum signed recently by Russian
and IMF officials demanded only that the Pension Fund's
budget be balanced, Russian news agencies reported. He said
the government's steps are aimed at reducing the fund's
deficit from the current 16 billion rubles ($2.6 billion) to
5 billion rubles by the end of the year. Interfax quoted
unnamed government sources as saying the government must
report to the IMF by 15 September on steps taken to balance
the Pension Fund's budget. The sources said the IMF may delay
the next tranche of its $11.2 billion stabilization loan to
Russia if the government's policies do not bring "tangible
results." LB

CONFLICTING REPORTS ON COMMUNIST'S CABINET APPOINTMENT.
Citing unidentified government sources, Interfax reported on
22 July that State Duma Economic Policy Committee Chairman
Yurii Maslyukov has been appointed trade and industry
minister. Maslyukov, a former head of the state planning
agency Gosplan during the Soviet period, is considered among
the more moderate members of the Communist faction in the
Duma. He supported the confirmation of Prime Minister Sergei
Kirienko in April, and his name was widely mentioned for a
possible cabinet post at that time. Maslyukov refused to
confirm his appointment on 22 July, and the following
morning, the presidium of the Communist Party's Central
Committee issued a statement saying Maslyukov's participation
in the government is "impossible," ITAR-TASS reported. An
unnamed Communist source told the news agency that Maslyukov
has pledged to abide by party discipline, despite his belief
that not allowing him to join the government is a "mistake."
LB

PRIMORE GOVERNOR RUMORED TO BE CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNMENT POST.
Several Russian newspapers have recently reported that
Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko may join the
government. Kirienko announced on 18 July that the cabinet
may bring in experienced people from the regions. In an
interview published in "Vremya-MN" on 20 July, Nazdratenko
said he has held talks on a possible cabinet post. But he
added that he does not want to serve in the "gendarmes,"
suggesting he has only been offered jobs related to military
or security issues. Nazdratenko recently proposed that the
government temporarily halt internal debt servicing in order
to pay wage arrears. He told "Vremya-MN" that Russian banks
that hold government treasury bills would "understand" the
need for such a policy. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22
July that Nazdratenko's popularity in Primore has been
waning, and he faces uncertain prospects in a gubernatorial
election next year. LB

CHECHEN PRESIDENT ESCAPES ASSASSINATION. Aslan Maskhadov
received minor injuries when a radio-controlled bomb exploded
in central Grozny on 23 July as his armor-plated Chevrolet
was driving past, RFE/RL's Grozny correspondent reported. One
of Maskhadov's bodyguards died in the attack, and two others
were injured. Speaking at a press conference after receiving
hospital treatment, Maskhadov said the attack on him was
intended to discredit the state of emergency currently in
force in Chechnya. He vowed that he will not change his
political course. Chechen security officials declined to
speculate on who perpetrated the attack.  LF

ATTACKERS FAIL TO KILL MAKHACHKALA MAYOR. Said Amirov escaped
unharmed when unidentified attackers launched a grenade
attack on his office in the Dagestani capital on 22 July,
RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent reported. It was the
fifth attempt to kill Amirov, who is confined to a wheelchair
after being seriously injured in a previous attack. LF

PRIMAKOV IN CHINA. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
began a five-day visit to China on 22 July by meeting briefly
with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to discuss bilateral
trade,  ITAR-TASS reported. Zhu called Primakov " a great
friend of the Chinese people." Primakov later held talks with
his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, and discussed, among
other things, the situation in South Asia following  the
nuclear tests conducted recently by India and Pakistan.
Later, at  an informal meeting, the two leaders discussed the
Kosova crisis, the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan,
and Iraq. Primakov said the main issue discussed by him and
Tang was the informal meeting of Chinese President Jiang
Zemin with Yeltsin in  Moscow,  scheduled for 4 September. BP

RUSSIA PREPARES TO SELL WARSHIP TO INDIA. "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 22 July that  Russia is in the final stages of a
concluding a contract to sell India the aircraft carrier
"Admiral Gorshkov." The selling price is reported at $2
billion. The ship, which was completed in 1978, is designed
to carry 16 Yak-38 aircraft as well as 19 Ka-27 and three Ka-
25 helicopters. According to the daily,  India is likely to
have British Harrier VTOL planes aboard. BP

DEFENSE MINISTRY ACCUSES ILYUKHIN. The Defense Ministry on 22
July accused Duma Security Committee Chairman and Communist
faction member Viktor Ilyukhin of seeking to destabilize the
country, news agencies reported.  The previous day, Ilyukhin
called on servicemen "not to fulfill orders, not to disarm,
and not to leave military settlements if those demobilized
are not provided with housing and compensations." The Defense
Ministry Statement accuses Ilyukhin of "encouraging anarchy
and subverting the battle-readiness of the armed forces."
Ilyukhin became leader of the Movement to Support the Army
earlier this month, following the murder of its founder,
former Duma Defense Chairman Lev Rokhlin. In an interview
published in the 23 July  "Sovetskaya Rossiya," Ilyukhin
claimed that Tamara Rokhlina, who was charged with killing
her husband, has changed her testimony and is now claiming
that the murder was carried out by three men in masks who
threatened her not to tell anyone. BT

OFFICIAL DENIES CORPSES NEAR ROKHLIN'S DACHA LINKED TO
MURDER. Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, a senior aide to Prosecutor-
General Yurii Skuratov, says there is no connection between
Rokhlin's murder on 3 July and three burned corpses found in
the woods about 1 kilometer from the dacha where he was
killed. Some Russian media have speculated that the corpses
were hitmen who were killed after murdering the Duma deputy.
But Zvyaginstev said forensic tests showed that the three men
died two weeks before Rokhlin's murder, ITAR-TASS reported on
22 July. He added that two men have already been arrested for
killing the men found in the woods and have confessed to the
crime. Some Russian media have argued that bodies in wooded
areas near several dachas could not have gone undetected for
weeks. LB

ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR BLASTS MANEVICH INVESTIGATION.
Commenting on the recent confession of four people to the
murder last year of St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Mikhail
Manevich, Vladimir Yakovlev said he believes that the "real
assassins of Manevich have long been dead," Russian news
agencies reported on 22 July.  One person was arrested in
Uzbekistan on 11 July, and the other three a few days later
in Kyrgyzstan.  Citing the fact that the four have been
charged with multiple contract killings, Yakovlev said the
suspects will confess to anything, because "they do not care"
if they are tried for one murder or more.  Yakovlev added
that the authorities must find the "customer" who ordered
Manevich killed.  At the time of the murder, some observers
believed Manevich was murdered in connection with his
position as head of the city Property Committee, while others
thought the killing was politically motivated (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 9 and 16 September 1997). BT

PROSECUTORS CLOSE CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST BANKRUPTCY OFFICIAL.
The Prosecutor-General's Office has closed the criminal case
against Petr Karpov, deputy head of the Federal Bankruptcy
Service, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 22 July.
Prosecutors did not clear Karpov of charges that he took a 5
million ruble ($870) bribe from an enterprise in Saratov in
1994. Instead, his crime was reclassified as "abuse of
office" instead of bribery, allowing his case to fall under a
wide-ranging amnesty declared in December 1997. Many
observers argued that the case against Karpov was fabricated
to prevent him from disclosing information about how
companies hide their profits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and
30 May 1997). Karpov has repeatedly denied the bribery
charges, but in a telephone interview with RFE/RL on 22 July,
he said he does not plan further attempts to urge law
enforcement authorities to confirm his innocence. LB

SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS BASHKORTOSTAN COURT ON PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTION. The Supreme Court on 21 July overturned a ruling by
the Supreme Court of the Republican of Bashkortostan, which
had upheld the legality of rescheduling the republican
presidential election for 14 June. The high court asked the
Bashkortostan court to consider the case again. Incumbent
Murtaza Rakhimov easily won the race, but critics
subsequently filed suit, charging that the election date was
illegally moved up, "Vremya-MN" reported on 22 July. Had the
vote been held in December, when Rakhimov's term was due to
expire, the incumbent would have been ineligible to run for
re-election. Acting on an inquiry from the Bashkortostan
legislature, the republican Constitutional Court recently
approved the rescheduling of the election (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 July 1998). But "Vremya-MN" said either the
Bashkortostan or federal Supreme Court could still annul the
election. LB

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS URGE BOYCOTT OF CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP.
Aleksei Simonov, the head of the Glasnost Defense Foundation,
and more than a dozen prominent human rights activists have
urged prominent chess players and national chess federations
to boycott the upcoming World Chess Olympic Games in Elista,
Kalmykia, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 22 July.
Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov also heads the world
chess federation FIDE. In an open letter, the human rights
activists repeat allegations widely publicized in the Russian
media, saying the "Chess City," where the games will take
place, was built with money misappropriated from federal
funds to Kalmykia and child allowances meant for the
republic's residents. The appeal also notes that last month,
the body of Larisa Yudina, the editor of "Sovetskaya Kalmykia
Segodnya," was found in a pond next to the "Chess City."
Yudina's newspaper was the only publication in Kalmykia that
regularly criticized and investigated Ilyumzhinov's
administration. LB


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS INJURED ON EVE OF ABKHAZ TALKS. Nine
members of the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed
in Abkhazia under CIS auspices were seriously injured on 22
July when their armored personnel carrier hit a land mine,
according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi. Speaking to
journalists on 22 July, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli
Menagharishvili said that Tbilisi will ask neither for the
peacekeepers' mandate to be extended when it expires on 31
July nor for their immediate withdrawal. Menagharishvili said
that at the upcoming UN-mediated talks in Geneva on resolving
on the Abkhaz conflict, he will demand that the May fighting
in Gali Raion be condemned as  genocide against the Georgian
civilian population. He will also demand that the Abkhaz side
be censored for its alleged failure to comply with the 25 May
protocol on a cease-fire and the repatriation of displaced
persons forced to flee during the Gali fighting. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ASSESSES FIRST 100 DAYS IN OFFICE.
Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 22 July, Robert
Kocharian noted positive economic trends during the first six
months of 1998 but conceded that these will lead to an
improvement in living standards only in two or three years,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian predicted that
political stability and popular trust will enable him to
achieve a major improvement in the country's political and
economic situation over that period.  He added that Armenia's
position on negotiating a peaceful solution to the Karabakh
conflict has become clearer and "more constructive" since his
election as president in March, but he denied that it is
tougher than that of Azerbaijan. And he said that the sole
remaining obstacle to Armenia's admission to full membership
in the Council of Europe is the fact that the death penalty
has not yet been abolished. LF

POPULAR SUPPORT FOR GEORGIAN PRESIDENT BELOW 50 PERCENT? The
results of a recent opinion poll conducted in Tbilisi and
summarized by Caucasus Press on  22 July suggest that if
presidential elections were held in Georgia tomorrow,
incumbent Eduard Shevardnadze would not receive the required
50 percent plus one vote to secure reelection in the first
round. Of those questioned, 41.4 percent named Shevardnadze
as the most popular political figure in the country, while 9
percent opted for parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania and 8.5
percent for opposition National Democratic Party of Georgia
leader Irina Sarishvili-Chantura. (The last two are both
under 35 and therefore too young to run for president.)
Support for Shevardnadze is lower in rural areas than in the
capital. Union of Traditionalists chairman and potential
presidential candidate Akaki Asatiani has reaffirmed his
intention to collect signatures to demand Shevardnadze's
resignation. LF

GEORGIAN JOURNALIST INTERVIEWS WANTED TERRORIST. Valerii
Kvaratskhelia has been summoned to the Georgian Prosecutor-
General's Office after publishing an interview with former
Georgian National Security Minister Igor Giorgadze, an RFE/RL
correspondent in the Georgian capital reported on 22 July.
Kvaratskhelia will be questioned about the venue of his
meeting with Giorgadze, who fled Georgia in 1995. Russian
officials have consistently denied that he is residing in
Russia. Giorgadze is wanted for questioning in connection
with the failed car bomb attack on then Georgian
parliamentary chairman Eduard Shevardnadze on 25 August 1995
as well as for the killings of a prominent opposition
politician and a close associate of Shevardnadze. In the
recent interview, Giorgadze again denies any involvement in
those crimes.  He also accuses Shevardnadze of imposing a
dictatorship. LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATES UN MURDERS. The Tajik
government has set up a special commission charged with
investigating the murders of four UN employees, RFE/RL
correspondents in Dushanbe reported. The commission must
report their findings to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov
within 10 days. Rakhmonov has also ordered additional
protection  for workers of foreign organizations in
Tajikistan. BP

ANOTHER CHEMICAL SPILL IN KYRGYZSTAN. A tanker truck
belonging to the Kumtor Mining Company spilled some 70 liters
of nitric acid along the road from Tokmak (outside Bishkek)
to Issyk Kul, on 22 July, ITAR-TASS reported. A statement
from Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Emergencies claims there is no
environmental damage. A truck belonging to the same company
spilled 1.7 tons of sodium cyanide into the Barskoon River,
near Issyk Kul, in late May. BP

KAZAKH LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AT ODDS AGAIN. Kazakh
National Security Committee agents on 22 July met with armed
resistance from police in the Jetysu District of Almaty when
they attempted to arrest a policeman caught in the act of
taking a bribe, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The agents
were conducting an undercover operation, but the policeman's
colleagues came his aid and shooting ensued. There are no
reports of casualties. This was the second clash between
Kazakh law enforcement agencies since President Nursultan
Nazarbayev declared war on corruption earlier this month. BP

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